Ever since the parties we had celebrated in grade school, St. Patrick's Day has been the day when I wished I was a wee bit Irish.
Only this year…being a wee bit Irish wasn’t a possibility. Especially since almost everything connected with the holiday was cancelled as fears over coronavirus intensified.
Nonetheless, I’m reminded of the days back in the late 1960s when our teachers would write a note on the black board encouraging all students to wear something green on St. Patrick's Day.
My dad always would make some snide remark that we should wear the colors of our forefathers from Germany and Luxembourg. But my mother would “shush” him telling him, it was a school event and to let the kids love have a bit of fun. As we headed out the door to wait for the school bus on St. Paddy's Day, Dad would blurt out, “Let me know when German Day is so I can bring brats and sauerkraut.”
My school chums and I would come wrapped in green sweaters, donning shamrocks and even showing off our green socks or nice green hairband. We couldn't wait until after noon recess when the festivities would begin. We'd get to play Irish bingo and spin the potato. Winners would receive shiny green No. 2 pencils.
While I remember wearing green, the items I remembered the most was the treats. There were green rice krispie bars, green-colored popcorn balls, shamrock-shaped sugar cookies frosted in green, green kool-aid and even green deviled eggs (they tasted better than they looked).
However, the treat everyone loved the most was Mrs. Petersen's Blarney Stones. One bite and we thought we had discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Mrs. Petersen was a war bride from England who loved to bake.
Somehow, my mother got a copy of Mrs. Petersen's Blarney Stones recipe. Much to my amazement, the treat was nothing but pound cake cubes dipped in white confectioner's sugar frosting and rolled in finely chopped dry roasted peanuts. It was a simple recipe — but to a third grader, it was pure heaven.
Legend has it, that those who kiss the blarney stone will be given the gift of gab and will be able to talk their way out of anything.
Now, I wonder was it because I ate too many of Mrs. Petersen's Blarney Stones that caused me to become chatterbox for life? My dad always said I had the gift of gab. Was it because I ate too many Blarney Stones during those grade school St. Patrick's Day parties?
I was lucky enough one year to be in Chicago during St. Patrick's Day. I actually witnessed the city workers dye the Chicago River green. Plus, I found a couple of good old-fashioned Irish bakeries that served up Irish soda bread and yes, Blarney Stones.
After my Chicago trip, Irish soda bread became my new favorite Irish food. But it was hard to find a good recipe, until I met a nurse from Tennessee who worked on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation back in the 1990s. Born and raised in Boston and her mother loved to bake Irish soda bread. I begged her to share her mom's recipe with me. After several months of pleas, Joni sent me a note that read, “I'm sharing mom's recipe with you … but if you share it with anyone may the pox of St. Patrick come down upon you.”
Needless to say I have never shared her mom's recipe. But every St. Patrick's Day I gather the ingredients to make a couple of loaves of Irish soda bread.
Frankly, it does my heart a wee bit of good to have made something so tasty to celebrate my need to become Irish — if just one day.
Maybe next year we can celebrate in full force.